Qualifying kings struggle in the rain (Chinese GP team-by-team: Red Bull)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

The Red Bull pair swapped places several times
The Red Bull pair swapped places several times

Red Bull’s qualifying performance was clearly not affected by the FIA’s clarification about ride height control devices as they locked out the front row in Shanghai.

But they can’t be happy about turning a one-two qualifying result into a six-eight finish.

Sebastian Vettel Mark Webber
Qualifying position 1 2
Qualifying time comparison (Q3) 1’34.558 (-0.248) 1’34.806
Race position 6 8
Average race lap 1’54.919 (-0.337) 1’55.256
Laps 56/56 56/56
Pit stops 4 4
Chinese Grand Prix lap times: Red Bull
Chinese Grand Prix lap times: Red Bull (click to enlarge)

Sebastian Vettel

Vettel hit the top of the times sheets the first time it mattered in Shanghai – in Q3. There wasn’t much to choose between him and Webber in the first two sectors but his third sector was flawless, edging him to pole by almost a quarter of a second over his team mate.

Vettel was powerless to stop Webber passing him at the start, however, as his team mate simply got away more quickly. This meant that when they both came into the pits for intermediate tyres, Vettel faced having to queue behind his team mate, losing precious time.

To lessen that disadvantage Vettel dawdled on his way to the pits, only arriving at his pit box just as Webber was pulling away, delaying the other cars who couldn’t pass him under the safety car conditions or in the pit lane. The stewards have frowned on this tactic in the past, handing Giancarlo Fisichella a penalty for it at the same track in 2005, but they overlooked Vettel doing the same this time.

The upshot of this was that Vettel lost fewer places than he might. But the tyre choice still hurt him as he had to come back in for slicks three laps later.

His second pit stop was controversial for more obvious reasons – he came in side-by-side with Lewis Hamilton and they left that way too, Vettel edging Hamilton worryingly close to the air lines of other teams’ pit boxes. Both drivers were given reprimands.

By lap eight Vettel lay ninth with Hamilton two places behind him and Fernando Alonso even further back. Yet both these key rivals ultimately finished ahead of him.

Hamilton got past Vettel as the Red Bull driver ran wide trying to pass Adrian Sutil. At the second safety car restart Sutil re-passed Vettel, leaving the door open for Alonso to follow him through.

Vettel later got past Sutil a second time and Vitaly Petrov’s spin promoted him to sixth where he finished.

Compare Sebastian Vettel’s form against his team mate in 2010

Mark Webber

Beat his team mate off the line, which gave him the upper hand when it came to the first pit stop. However he brought the RB6 to a stop too late and hit the front jack, damaging his front wing, and delaying both stops.

Webber switched back from intermediates to slicks one lap later than Vettel and fell behind him again. The tables turned once more when Webber pitted for his next set of intermediates one lap before Vettel and Hamilton, putting him back ahead of them.

Then came the controversial wheel-banging episode with Hamilton behind the safety car which knocked Webber off the track and down to 12th place.

He took his final set of intermediate tyres early as well to get out from behind the Sutil-Schumacher-Massa queue. He leap-frogged the lot of them plus Vitaly Petrov to hold seventh behind his team mate. But he couldn’t make the tyres last until the end and Petrov re-passed him with three laps to go.

Interestingly, both Red Bull drivers were well off the pace in the final laps, losing up to two seconds per lap to leader Jenson Button even as most of the cars around them were catching the McLaren.

Perhaps the high downforce levels the RB6 enjoys, particularly in qualifying, makes it too hard on the new 2010 intermediate tyres?

Compare Mark Webber’s form against his team mate in 2010

2010 Chinese Grand Prix

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